Although Gómez Manrique is the first known Spanish dramatist, he does not have the distinction of being the “father” of Spanish theater. That honor belongs to Juan del Encina. Manrique brought the theater one step closer to its glory of the Golden Age, however, and his contributions to Spanish literature were not only important but also beautiful.
Momos al nacimiento de un sobrino suyo
Manrique owes his fame as the first-known Spanish dramatist to four brief works with dramatic possibilities. Of the four, the least known is the Momos al nacimiento de un sobrino suyo. The momos, or mumming was a very popular entertainment in the palaces and great houses of the fifteenth century. It was a mixture of dancing, singing, poetic recitation, and gift giving, whose only requirement was that the mummers had to be disguised.
One type of momos, generally associated with a baptism or a birthday, was the hados in which the person honored was endowed with great gifts by various supernatural, allegorical, or mythological beings. In Momos al nacimiento de un sobrino suyo, the mummers grant to Manrique’s nephew the virtues they are dressed to represent: justice, prudence, temperance, fortitude, faith, hope, and charity.
Momos de doña Isabel para su hermano don Alfonso
If the least is known about Momos al nacimiento de un sobrino suyo, the most is known about the Momos de doña Isabel para su hermano don Alfonso, because Isabel, the young instigator of the work, was later to become the great queen of Spain, and Don Alfonso, her brother, was the boy who had been proclaimed king in a rebellion directed in great part by the Manriques only two years before. It is definitely known that the work was performed in 1467, and the names of mummers are known. Even the time of its performance, in the evening, after supper, is recorded in the Castilian court annals. The Momos de doña Isabel para su hermano don Alfonso opens with Isabel, covered with tufts of fur, giving a rather flowery discourse on the reason for the disguise. She informs the prince that she and her eight sister “muses” have come by mysterious...
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